What is Fascia?


Fascia. It's trending in the medical world at the moment and is becoming more and more important in treating injury and other chronic pains. But what actually is it? With the help from Gil Hedley, I want to show you up close what Fascia actually is, how it is made up and its ability to transform to the kind of work we do. Below you'll find three videos that are all related to Fascia. I have highlighted a few areas that I want you to give particular attention to. These will have time stamps so you can skip over the other parts if you want to. I would like to say that the first video does use human cadavers, so if you're not comfortable with this, just make sure to stick to the timestamps as they'll make sure that you don't see anything frightening.


The term Fascia, or Myofascia, is used by a lot of people in the fitness and rehabilitation worlds, and while a lot of people do have some concept of what it is, in most cases it is so much more than we initially understand. In my opinion, Fascia is one of the most important organs in the human body. If you are interested in improving your flexibility, or any other type of training of the human body, it is something that you need to understand deeply to get the most out of your training. In these videos, I am going to discuss a little about what fascia actually is, and I am also going to guide you through three videos that I often use to explain fascia to many of my clients.

So what is Fascia?

At its most basic level, Fascia may be described as connective tissue. Some people describe it as a kind of sausage skin that encases the muscles that links everything together. While this is partially true, Fascia is really so much more than this. While fascia does surround every muscle in your body, it also surrounds every little bundle of muscle fibers, and even down to every individual myofibril. But it’s not just about muscles! Fascia actually surrounds everything! It wraps in and around your small intestine; It is deeply connected in and around your eyeballs; It’s the stuff that connects everything to everything! And this is why when you have an issue in one area of the body it can be remotely affecting what you are feeling in another area of the body. This is why when we are looking at any issues around our flexibility we need to look at the fascial system as a whole to actually work out where the real root of the problem actually is to resolve the issue long term. There are three videos that I love to use to explain the complexity and qualities of Fascia to my clients. I find that this greatly enhances everyone’s understanding of what to feel when performing any fascial mobilisation exercises.

Video #1 - The Fuzz Speech

In this video, Gil Hedley Ph.D. demonstrates a real-world look at fascia in human cadavers. He talks about “fuzz” which is a way of describing the interconnections that develop between fascial layers when there is a lack of movement. There are a few moments in this video that I think are really important. Please note the following timestamps in the video as I will reference them later:


1:05 - Take a look at how Gil moves his shoulders. While he is explaining the importance of moving in maintaining and improving range, he actually does not have much mobility in his shoulders. When his hands are above his head, note the space between his arm and his head. 


2:00 - At this point, he begins talking about the effect of injury and lack of movement that usually follows one. This is very important.

2:56 - Gil mentions how many people associate the gradual lack of movement as “aging”. We consider the lack of movement more a case of “use it or lose it!” It is never too late to work on your mobility. 


4:35 - He continues on this thread, and discusses the concept that “Fuzz represents time”.


Video #2 - The Heart Dance

This video actually has nothing to with fascia, it's actually about the passage of blood flow through the heart. However, what it does show is the capacity for the human body to change. Note the change in Gil's mobility in his shoulder joints and the fluidity of movement that he has in this video than he had in the previous video. Take note of the following timestamps:

1:09 - He moves his arms here. Take a look at the quality of movement of his arms and compare the shoulder range of motion and suppleness.

1:40 - Check out his expansive and all encompassing second position that demonstrates how a change in Fascia construction can influence the texture of movement.


Video #3 - Fascia 25x

This video is taken from an extraordinary documentary called “Strolling Under The Skin” and allows us to watch fascia in motion inside a human body. It shows the constant reformation of fascial tissue as well as demonstrating how staying hydrated is essential for staying mobile. Some timestamps to take note of are:


0:25 - Note the fluid tracking down inside the fascial fibril. We have always known that there is fluid surrounding each of these fibres yet watching the fluidity of the actual tissue further reinforces the need for good hydration in achieving optimal fascial mobility. 


0:33 - Note the cross-linkage between two fibrils. This is a great demonstration of the fuzz that Gil describes. If we do not move or habitually move in one direction, these cross-linkages will continue to develop adhering otherwise sliding surfaces together. 

0:43 - Watch the extraordinary reorganisation of fascial tissue in real-time. Our bodies are in a constant state of reformation and the instructions that we give it will determine the results it gives us. Keep this quality of reorganisation in mind whenever you are doing any fascial mobilisation work to enhance its effect. 


1:15 - Note the effect of stretching on blood flow to the tissues. As you stretch blood and other fluids are driven out of the tissues. It is important to alternate load with relaxation to enable fresh, nourishing fluid to return to the tissues to their hydration and therefore their extensibility. 


2:20 - This view allows you to connect the microscopic view of Fascia with how it works between layers of muscle tissue. 


Flexibility Resources

If you are looking to delve deeper into this topic, check out the following programs:

  • Front Splits Fast Program: This program translates therapeutic techniques for improving Fascial Mobility and Neural Tension into easy to do exercises that can enable instant changes in your flexibility without the risk of damage through over stretching.
  • Level Two Online Flexibility Intensive: If you are a dance teacher, this is the perfect continued education course for you. During this course you will understand the multifactorial nature to flexibility training. You will also explore safe ways of assessing exactly where each individual is restricted in order to create the most effective program.
  • Level Three Online Flexibility Intensive on 'How to Train Extreme Mobility Safely'This workshop will help you assess your students in detail and be able to offer them effective techniques in a logical clear order to get them on the way to achieving THEIR optimal flexibility. It is also for teachers who are concerned at the extreme positions young dancers are wanting to work into, as it gives you safe guidelines on how to guide their development.